The Future of Scottish Cosmopolitanism at the Fin de Siècle

The third and final event in this project took place online on Monday 29 March 2021 via Zoom. It was divided into three parts: two public sessions, involving papers and discussion by academics, and one, smaller workshop session to explore the possibilities for future work in this area and the potential for developing digital archival material.

Panel 1 – Ongoing Work in Scottish Cosmopolitanism at the Fin de Siècle’

This first public panel was designed to build on previous sessions in the project and featured presentations by established scholars working in the field of Scottish literature, art and culture.

  • Sian Reynolds (University of Stirling) – Exiles from the Paris Commune

Speaking first Sian Reynolds, emeritus professor at the University of Stirling gave a fascinating paper called ‘Exiles from the Paris Commune’. Her talk was very timely, since 2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune – the uprising that followed in the wake of Prussia’s occupation of France and which was suppressed with bloody force by the French authorities. Professor Reynolds traced the lives and activities of those Communard exiles who found their way to Scotland. These included Léo Meillet, one of the founders of the Edinburgh University Socialist Society; the Reclus brothers, Élie and Élisée; and Augustin Hamon who all spent time in Edinburgh during the 1890s.

Élisée Reclus
  • Murdo MacDonald (University of Dundee) – ‘Patrick Geddes: Scotland, India, Japan’

Connections between these French political exiles and the writer, designer and architect, Patrick Geddes in Edinburgh provided a common point of transition between Professor Reynolds’ talk and our second speaker, Murdo Macdonald, professor in Scottish Art and Art History at the University of Dundee. His paper was entitled, ‘Patrick Geddes: Scotland, India, Japan’ and ranged widely across Geddes personal connections, influences and activities. 

You can watch here a recording of his presentation that includes stunning visual material relating to Geddes and his international connections:

  • Petra Poncarova (Charles University, Prague) – Fin-de-siècle Features in Detective Short Stories by Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar

The third and final talk in the panel explored detective stories, such as ‘The Woman with the Snake’s Heart’ by Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar. This presentation by Petra Poncarova explored the publication circumstances of Erskine’s work as well as his inclusion of material in French.

Panel 2 – Cosmopolitanism and Digital Archives

The second panel of the day sought to explore the role of various digital and online resources in shaping future work on Scotland’s cultural and artistic connections with the rest of the World at the end of the nineteenth century.

  • Bob Nicholson (Edge Hill University) – Cosmopolitan Digital Archives

This panel began with a presentation by Bob Nicholson that sought to explore whether digital archives of newspapers and other historical materials are intrinsically cosmopolitan.

  • Melodee Beals (Loughborough University) – Creating Wormholes with Digitised Collections

Our second speaker, Melodee Beals, provided a set of examples showing the ways that digital resources can help scholars trace connections and shared cultural links between diasporic communities, such as links between Scotland and New Zealand at the end of the nineteenth century.

  • Lorraine Janzen Kooistra (Ryerson University) – The Cosmopolitan Evergreen and The Global Digital

Our final speaker, Lorraine Janzen Kooistra demonstrated some of the achievements made by her research group in developing the 1890s.ca site, which offers online access to a range of fin-de-siècle magazines and periodicals in digital form. These including the Evergreen, edited by Patrick Geddes, which has been widely discussed across several of the project’s events. A recording of Professor Kooistra’s talk is available here:

Future Plans

A third and final closed session mixed presentations from archival institutions, including the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the National Library in Scotland, with short informed talks from academics in order to explore the possibility for future research in this area and in order to identify the potential for developing new archival resources (with a strong emphasis on digital resources). It has not been possible to preserve these exchanges on this site, but we hope these discussions will bear fruit that can be shared more widely at a future date.